Conservatory of Music Student Composes and Conducts Three Original Pieces
Joshua Roberts, a senior at New Saint Andrews, composed and conducted three original pieces. The singers are NSA students and alumni, several of whom are in the Certificate of Music program. Come, Let Us Return to the Lord, he wrote his sophomore year. The text is Hosea 6:1-3. “I memorized the text and broke it into logical sections. This gave me the skeleton for the arrangement.” Joshua wanted the music to arise from the text, a method that Dr. Erb teaches his students and practices himself. “It was an exercise to see how well I could match music to text. My goals were making the text clear and accentuating parts of the text musically.”
Joshua’s latest piece is more sophisticated. Come, Let Us Return is homophonic (all voices with the same rhythm). Ecclesiastes 9:9 is polyphonic and in Latin. Composed for his friend’s wedding, Joshua followed a different path, one he had also learned from Dr. Erb. “He chose Ecclesiastes 9. I was a bit surprised, it’s not something that you’d think would be sung at a wedding.” To make the text more celebratory, Joshua brought the music first, which he then matched to the text. Following the style of a Renaissance motet, he drew from a number of melodies and applied them to the Ecclesiastes text. The melodies are from settings of Psalm 128—a text more commonly used for weddings.
These details skim the surface of the pieces’ complexities. Shimmer chords, text painting, and Latin chants exist within Joshua’s compositions. They hint at something Dr. Erb instills in his students: musical thoughtfulness. Each component has an effect and should be used with intention. The melodies, harmonies, rhythms—each musical element carries meaning and must be carefully arranged.
Another principle that permeates NSA’s music education: God made music. “It’s for his worship,” says Joshua. “It is a gift, a created thing, and it comes with certain properties and rules.” This means not all music is good music. And certain occasions call for certain music: “what music is fitting for what particular thing? I’ve tried to internalize that. It’s a kind of rhetoric. Music is a lot more practical than people think. It should be made with specific occasions in mind or to serve a need.”
With the average American listening to over 32 hours of music a week, the New Saint Andrews Conservatory of Music strives to produce students like Joshua—fluent in music and educated in the liberal arts—who honor God and love their neighbor with the gift of music.
Learn more about NSA’s Certificate of Music here!